Common cold could be cured in just five years, say scientists

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No one is immune to the common cold, but scientists believe they may be close to finding a cure.

Laboratory tests showed how an experimental drug stopped the rhinovirus - the predominant cause of the common cold - hijacking a human protein to build the protective shell, or "capsid".

Caused by a family of viruses with hundreds of variants, it is almost impossible to treat, as no single vaccination exists against it, meaning people resort to treating the symptoms rather than the virus itself.

But researchers at Imperial College London have developed a molecule known as IMP-1088 which could work around these restrictions.

Early lab-based tests with human cells have shown the molecule's ability to completely block multiple strains of cold virus, and the team hope to move to animal and then human trials. They reported the discovery in the journal Nature Chemistry.

By contrast, the new molecule successfully blocked the several strains it was trialed against without damaging the human cells.

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Users would have to take the drug early on in a cold infection, and the researchers are working on a version which could be inhaled. All treatments against the cold are to treat the symptoms like a runny nose, fever or a sore throat. Without the protein shield, the virus's genetic heart of RNA is exposed and vulnerable - and the virus can not replicate.

The molecule targets a human protein and not the virus itself, making emergence of resistant viruses highly unlikely.

However, the discovery of a new molecule, code-named IMP-1088, offers a slightly different approach to the problem by treating the human cells. However, further studies are needed to ensure that the drug is not toxic in the body.

Previous attempts to create drugs that target human cells rather than the virus have proven to be failures, while also showing themselves to be toxic.

The medicinal chemistry team in the Tate group at Imperial, led by Dr Andy Bell (who previously invented Viagra as a researcher at Pfizer), were originally looking for compounds that targeted the protein in malaria parasites. They found two likely molecules and discovered that they were most effective when they were combined. Ed Tate, of Imperial College London in the United Kingdom.

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